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Insurance Tips for Consumers

Americans love to shop. We shop for clothing, cars, televisions, homes, VCR's - any major purchase we make demands comparison shopping so that we get the most for our consumer dollar.

But how do you go about shopping for insurance? How do you know what type of insurance coverage is necessary and what is not? The Pennsylvania Insurance Department has some helpful tips for consumers who are in the market for insurance.

The first rule is to shop around and compare prices. Don't be afraid to ask your agent or broker questions. And make sure you're comparing apples to apples, not apples to oranges.

Never deal with salespeople who are "just passing through". They may not be able to provide you service when you need it. Ask friends and relatives in the community to recommend a good agent.

It's important that you know what insurance benefits you may already have through an employer, spouse or parent before you consider buying additional coverage. If you don't know what coverage you have, you may be buying too much insurance. Don't be pressured into making a decision in one day. Any legitimate insurance deal will always be available tomorrow. If you don't like an agent's sales approach, never hesitate to tell him or her to leave your home immediately.

Before you purchase any insurance policy, make sure you read and understand what you are signing. If you decide to buy an accident and health, life or annuity policy, you can return it directly to the agent or to the company, we suggest by certified mail, within ten days for a full return of premium paid. However, this only applies to individual policies and not group policies. And never, never pay cash for insurance. If writing a check, make it payable to the insurance company, never to the agent.

Remember, the Pennsylvania Insurance Department has an Erie Regional Office which you can call if you have any insurance questions. They will be glad to answer any questions or investigate complaints which you may have. The office is located at P.O. Box 6142, 808 Renaissance Center, Erie, PA 16512 and the telephone number is 814/871-4466. Consumers may also log onto the Insurance Department's website at 5/11

If you need to consult with an attorney, please contact the Erie County Bar Association's Lawyer Referral Service.